The Anbar council recently admitted that it had lost control of parts of the provincial capital of Ramadi. For months local officials had claimed that the city was secure and Fallujah was the only real problem in the governorate. Now there is talk about launching a military offensive to cleanse parts of the capital of insurgents. In truth, several neighborhoods have been under dispute since fighting began in December 2013, the council just didn’t want to admit that where it worked was not secure.
|Security forces clearing a house in Ramadi Feb 2014 (Reuters)|
Since the beginning of April 2014 Anbar officials have talked about Ramadi becoming a new focus of security operations. On April 7 a curfew was imposed due to car bomb threats. April 10 the provincial council said that families were leaving the city due to government shelling and gunfights. Three days later the security forces claimed that it had cleared 20th Street of militants, and this was the beginning of a larger effort to secure the entire city. That same day Deputy Governor Falah Issawi admitted that some neighborhoods had to be retaken, and that a large offensive to do so was in the works. This was a decided change in rhetoric from the Anbar government. In February for example, the council claimed that the city was safe enough for refugees to return to their homes. March 9 Issawi told the press that military operations in the city had ceased and that life was returning to normal there. At the same time he stated that there were still insurgents in the southern part of Ramadi. Now a month later their opinion has changed, but that’s only because security must have gotten so bad they couldn’t keep up with their story.
Evidence that Ramadi was not secure was abundant in the Iraqi press. For the last several weeks Ramadi has seen the majority of attacks and violence in Anbar. From April 8-14 there were 41 incidents in the province according to the newspapers with 6 in Ramadi, the second most for the week. Most of those were gunfights with insurgents. April 1-7 there were 41 incidents again with Ramadi accounting for the highest amount at 12. April 5 for example there were shootouts on 20th Street, Stadium Street, the Hamidiya and Sufiya neighborhoods along with a car bomb and an improvised explosive device. March 28-31 of the 31 incidents Ramadi accounted for 6 again making it number one for violence. March 28 witnessed clashes with militants in the Bakr, Malab, 60th Street, and 20th Street areas. March 30 also saw a suicide car bomb destroy a bridge outside the city. Many of these neighborhoods such as Malab and 20th and 60th Streets have been fought over for months making the official line that the city was peaceful all the more unbelievable.
Many cities and towns in Anbar province are outside of government control, but Ramadi was not officially one of them until now. The local council has not been telling the truth about the security situation hence their repeated claims that Ramadi was safe and secure. Now it has finally admitted that the city needs to be cleared. A military operation is pending, but it is not clear whether this will happen before or after the April 30 elections as the government is also talking about retaking a dam at Naimiya that the Islamic State of Iraq (ISIS) has taken over and is using to flood parts of the province as well as Fallujah. The real question is not when it will happen, but whether the security forces will be competent enough to take and hold Ramadi as it has failed to do so over the last four months.
AIN, "2 car bombs explode in southern Ramadi," 4/5/14
- “Curfew imposed in Ramadi,” 4/7/14
- "Policemen, gunmen killed in clashes in eastern Ramadi," 4/5/14
- "Voting Center detonated in central Ramadi," 4/5/14
Buratha News, “Security forces to impose its control over the area 20th Street central Ramadi,” 4/13/14
Al Jazeera, "Deaths in attack on Iraq police patrol," 3/30/14
NINA, "Clashes between army and armed groups erupt in central and eastern Ramadi," 4/5/14
- "Clashes between army and armed groups in areas of central and eastern Ramadi," 3/28/14
- “Dozens of families displace from Ramadi due to random shelling,” 4/10/14
Xinhua, "41 killed in violent attacks across Iraq," 4/6/14